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Climbing the walls at Drew’s place

By Josh Staloch

DE PERE – It’s been more than 18 months since Suamico native Drew Knapp, known for his run on television’s American Ninja Warrior (ANW), opened Warrior Jungle in De Pere with the help of his brother and fellow ANW alum, Dalton Knapp.

Since the facility went operational in March 2018, Warrior Jungle has grown in popularity.

On Nov. 9, Warrior Jungle played host to more than 100 athletes from squads as far away as Colorado who were looking to add to their National Ninja League points totals.

“The event went well, and everything ran smoothly,” said Knapp. “We got good feedback from the athletes and spectators. It was a successful weekend. The course flow was good for the athletes. We try to set things up so they don’t have to think about where they’re going next when they come off a particular obstacle.”

For the single-stage youth course, the day began with an extensive walk through the course, which started with a run up a curved wall and down onto a set of rings.

Participants finished by traversing across a wire while hanging from a log that was designed to spin, before dismounting onto a narrow pedestal at the finish line.

Not everyone made it through all 12 obstacles on the course cleanly, but Warrior Jungle athletes from the youth divisions had strong showings.

Completing the full course, Zachary Johnson finished second in the Teen Male division and Eliza Aitken finished in second in the Young Adult Female division.

Following a quick warm-up session, the athletes began the day.

Many participants were counting on the day’s results to move to the next level of competition.

“It was good, and the course was fun,” said Warrior Jungle member Derick Rehn, who earned enough points to qualify for the National Ninja League World Finals held in North Carolina in February. “Getting onto the finishing box from the rolling log was hard – probably the hardest part of the course, but you try to prepare for that. I was nervous coming into it, but we work on being mentally tough. That helps you not worry about slipping on the next ring or missing the log when you jump onto it.”

The athletes didn’t know what the course would look like until they showed up at Warrior Jungle the morning of the competition.

One obstacle had participants taking a rope swing and landing onto a stationary log before swinging from another rope onto another log.

This log was stationary at the far end but loose at the front, allowing the athlete to stand carefully on it, roll it along the floor and over to the next set of obstacles.

The athletes at Warrior Jungle spend hours working on the obstacles between competitive events.

“I feel I have the ability to push through things more than I did before,” said Aitken, who will also be moving on to the World Finals. “If I fail at something, I’m going to try again because I know I can do it. The mental toughness you get here helps you push through things.”

In addition to NNL sanctioned events, Warrior Jungle holds open gyms and club events attended by ninja competitors across Wisconsin.

If impersonating a ninja in a controlled environment doesn’t quite fill your fun meter for the day, Drew’s father, Craig, operates Urban Battlefield next door.

Urban Battlefield is a tactical laser tag experience.

“We have lots of fun, and we see it in the kids every day,” said Knapp. “We have more than 160 kids in our recreational program, and that’s not counting our competition teams. They seem to enjoy it. We’re also doing lots of birthday parties. People seem to be enjoying what we have to offer. We’re excited to be bringing this community to our area.”

Editor’s note: Complete results for the 100-plus competitors can be found online by CLICKING HERE.

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